Today we would like to present an interview with Capt Ryan Bodenheimer, F-15E Strike Eagle pilot with the 389th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho (366th Fighter Wing):
1. Have you always wanted to be a pilot?
Mr. Kuska, thank you for reaching out to the 389th fighter squadron. It’s really cool to be featured in infolotnicze. It would be great for you to visit the 389th and meet the people that make it a success. To answer your question, I have not always wanted to be a pilot. When I was 14 my Dad took me to a flightline in Alaska. That night we watched three four-ships of F-16s take off at sunset. It was a cool experience — especially as a kid. Seeing the afterburners light and feeling the thundering sensation they made in my chest left an impact. It was the most impressive thing I had seen so far in my life. I didn’t really know what it meant at the time, to be a fighter pilot, but from that point on I started doing my research!
2. What planes did you fly before the F-15?
Before the Strike Eagle (F-15E) I flew the Cessna 182 in Colorado Springs while working towards a private pilot’s license. Then I moved on to the T-37 and T-38C at Sheppard Air Force Base Texas. During training I flew with Norwegian, German and Italian pilots. It was an incredibly rewarding experience aeronautically and culturally.
3. Can you compare the F-15 with another machine?
The F-15E is a multirole fighter. Other multirole fighters exist, like the F-16 and F-35, but the unique distinction is that we have a crew inside the Strike Eagle. We work as a team within our cockpit to accomplish the mission. This means that we have two people thinking of possible solutions instead of one. During combat missions in Afghanistan, having two people meant that while the Weapons Systems Officer in the back seat was finding the enemy I could simultaneously navigate around complex terrain safely. This meant that we could put bombs on target within seconds and ultimately save more coalition lives.
4. Were fighters your first choice or did you considered also other types?
Fighters were my first choice. I wanted to fly something that was actively engaged in protecting coalition troops that were taking fire from the enemy.
5. What type of F-15 are you flying today? Did you fly on older versions? Can you compare them?
I’m flying the F-15E. I have not flown any other versions of the F-15.
6. F-15 is still the backbone of the offensive forces of the USAF and is undergoing modernization and upgrades. Do you think they will serve for many years?
My personal opinion is that the F-15E should continue to serve for many more years. As we modernize our Air Force we are still in need of reliable fourth-generation fighters that can perform multirole missions while fifth-generation fighters are being tested for operational employment. If we keep our fourth-generation fighters up-to-date, we can free up our fifth-generation fighter for other missions.
7. F-15 are known for its fast pace of climb – a few dozen seconds after takeoff and the pilot can climb many kilometers. How often during training are you using the full power of the F-15?
During training we like to „train how we fight,” which means that we train to max perform the F-15E during all phases of flight. We are constantly pushing the envelope and that requires us to use the full capability of the F-15E during the majority of each flight. Whenever we can spare the fuel, quick-climb takeoffs are a great way to start a mission!
8. The successor to the F-15 is undoubtedly the F-22. Have you ever performed joint missions with pilots flying F-22 or took part in a mock combat against the F-22?
I have performed joint missions with the F-22. It’s capabilities are incredible. Pairing up the F-15E with the F-22 makes sense since the F-22 is air-to-air focused. During these missions the F-15E can focus on air-to-ground and perform air-to-air functions as a secondary mission.
9. Could you tell us a few words about your work as a flight lead and scheduling officer?
As a flight lead I typically lead a four-ship or two-ship to perform various missions in the airspace near Mountain Home Air Force Base or in a deployed environment. We work with troops on the ground to practice close air support. We also integrate with other aircraft during large force exercises where we simulate a major combat operation with air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. A typical day starts at 6 a.m. We plan the flight and takeoff around 9 a.m. We fly for about two hours and then debrief the mission for about one and a half hours. Our flight duties are typically done by 1 p.m. After our flight we perform other jobs for one to three hours to help the squadron function properly. During these one to three hours we also study tactics and work out. As a scheduling officer I am removed from flying for one week a month. During this week I plan the next day’s flights and ensure that operations are running smoothly for the next day’s responsibilities.
10. Could you tell us a few words about Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training?
ENJJPT is a training course that takes you from having minimal flying skills to being fighter qualified in about a year. The best part about my experience was being able to learn with student pilots from Norway, Germany, Italy and other NATO countries. Training was rigorous, but during our off time, we would play sports, barbecue and spend time in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. During ENJJPT’s training and extracurricular activities we all became friends and built relationships that continue to this day. As an example, last summer I went back to Norway for my ENJJPT friend’s wedding.
11. Would you change your machine to a different type?
The F-15E’s dual crew, dual engines, large fuel quantity and large weapons load make it very reliable. I wouldn’t want to fly anything else in combat.
Krzysztof, thanks and have a great week!
Ryan „Neo” Bodenheimer